Effects of Child Poverty

Three children affected by poverty

Effects of Child Poverty

“Nowadays there really is no primary poverty left in this country. In Western countries we are left with the problems which aren’t poverty. All right, there may be poverty because people don’t know how to budget, don’t know how to spend their earnings, but now you are left with the really hard fundamental character—personality defect.”

Margaret Thatcher 1978

Many people believe that poverty doesn’t really exist in the UK today and that the only poverty that exists is in far off places where people lack basic necessities such as water and shelter. Lots of people think that what we call ‘poverty’ isn’t ‘real poverty’ and isn’t comparable to what they might have experienced as children. Others believe that if children can afford branded goods, mobile phones and the latest games consoles then poverty mustn’t exist.

However, whatever we want to call it, the ‘thing’ that we call ‘poverty’ in the UK today has real effects which cannot be ignored or denied.

  • The poorest infants have an almost 10 times higher chance of dying suddenly in infancy than those in the highest income group.
  • Acute illnesses are more likely to affect poor children and they are more likely to experience hospital admission.
  • Children who live in poverty are twice as likely to live in bad housing. Overcrowding and temporary accommodation are also factors that affect children growing up in poverty.
  • Poorer families often have to pay a ‘poverty premium’ of around £1,280 per year for good and services.
  • The link between growing up in poverty and being poor in adulthood has become stronger since the 1970s - social mobility is failing

"Whatever we may mean by poverty, there are people whose resources are so low that they bear the observable and objective marks of multiple deprivation, including ill-health or disability and the risk of early death"

Peter Townsend

Poverty means that children – and their parents – have to go without things that other families take for granted. For example:

  • Nearly two-thirds of children who live in poverty cannot afford to go away on holiday (anywhere) with their family for a week
  • A quarter of them cannot afford to go swimming once a month
  • Around half of  households in poverty cannot afford to replace worn out furniture, get electrical items repaired or have household insurance
  • A third of parents in poverty do not have enough for a hobby or leisure activity of their own.

[Source: Households Below Average Income: An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2008/09, DWP, 2011]


Work has to be a better route out of poverty. Most poor children have a working parent.

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Poverty leads to poor attainment.  Poor attainment leads to poverty.

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Local Authorities

Councils have a duty to address child poverty through their services, jobs and contracts.

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Everyone can help to tackle child poverty. Every contribution matters.

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